You might think, in such a landlocked state as Colorado, that the seafood (particularly of the raw variety) wouldn’t necessarily be top notch. But oh, how wrong you’d be! There are plenty of great sushi restaurants in Boulder, and there’s nothing like a good healthy dose of tasty protein after an outdoorsy or an otherwise active day (as the uber-healthy denizens of Boulder will tell you).
Boulder is getting more and more well known for all kinds of its foodie-friendly destinations, what with one of our best homegrown chefs winning a Food Network competition, and more and more stars of the restaurant biz flock to our beautiful town to share their art with the discerning palates of Boulderites. But sushi has been a Boulder staple of the highest quality for a long time, and we all know the best places to get the most authentic rolls, nigiri, or sashimi (and more) that your heart could desire.
Here are the Top 5 (if your favorite is left out, please do let us know!)
Sushi Zanmai has been voted the best sushi restaurant in Boulder (and also in the Japanese cuisine category) for many years running. It’s the best of the best, a true local favorite, and is perfect for anything from a delicious lunch special, to sushi-fueled karaoke night, and everything in between. It has a well-deserved reputation in Boulder (even besides the yearly Best title) for being the absolute best, most authentically Japanese, tastiest sushi you’ll find in the state, let alone the city of Boulder. And the crew knows how to party. They’ll cheer a kampai with you just for entering the door, and if you have a birthday? Definitely go to Zanmai to kick off the party atmosphere.
Zanmai’s sister restaurant, Izakaya Amu, is also an amazing and authentic Japanese food center of the city. You won’t find sushi at Amu (go next door to Zanmai for that), but you will have the pleasure of selecting from the largest sake list in Boulder, and delicious Japanese food.
At Sushi Zanmai, you can’t go wrong with any of their nigiri, but they used to make a Z-Death roll that would melt the faces off my chili-head friends. Ask for it, and see if you’re up for the challenge. No, but really–Sushi Zanmai is a place with attention to the most precise of authentically Japanese details when it comes to sushi–it’s the number one sushi joint most Boulderites would recommend first.
Irrasshaimase! Boulder’s Japango is the place to (Japan)go for both your traditional and modern sushi cravings. Located on the Pearl Street Mall right across from Historic Boulder Bookstore, Japango boasts two patios, one for mall people watching, and another with a fireside bar. Don’t let the swanky, nightclub-like surroundings of Japango fool you–they’ve got some of the best (and most frequent) happy hour deals in Boulder, including all day and night Mondays.
Japango’s sushi is to die for–as mentioned above, they have all the traditional farewell prepared and delicious, but they also have a robust contemporary side to their menu, and their selection of Japanese whiskey is the largest in Colorado.
The best noms at Japango are their more contemporary offerings, in my opinion. Elegantly plated and super tasty, I always enjoy their modern fare best when I go there.
You may have seen other Hapa Sushi joints around Colorado, but the Pearl Street Mall Hapa is bar none. They’re known for their insanely and deliciously elaborate selection of sushi rolls, and a menu that is modern Japanese with a healthy dash of Hawaii added.
Hapa, also, has a robust happy hour (locals call it Hapa Hour), a DJ who drops the beats in the back bar late on weekends, and even a kids’ menu, which is pretty unusual for a sushi restaurant in Boulder. Hapa Sushi is the perfect place to go when you’re looking for a lunchtime roll on a people-watching patio (they, like Japango, are located right on the Pearl Street Mall), with a custom-brewed Hapa pint created by local brewery Great Divide.
Food wise? Hapa has a killer tuna poke in the best Hawaiian style, and their rolls baked with cream sauce (named after various sex-related terms, no less) are truly orgasmic.
The word kasa, in Japanese, means umbrella, and the interior and exterior of Pearl Street’s Kasa Sushi is resplendent with said traditional decor. The beautiful sushi (and Japanese cuisine) restaurant is located smack dab on the corner of 15th street and the Pearl Street Mall, which makes Kasa the destination for anyone out for a day on the Boulder bricks.
As delicious and skillfully made as their sushi is, Kasa also has lots of other tasty Japanese traditions on their menu, from udon and seaweed salads to shumai and some of the best gyoza you’ll ever pop in your mouth.
As they say on their welcoming website, Kasa Sushi wants to bring you to Japan without leaving Boulder, and boy do they do the trick!
At Kasa, I recommend doing a traditional spread, starting with an appetizer, moving through a selection of nigiri of whatever type you like best. Their chef is a master at the traditional style, and the fewer frills and trappings on his work, the better, at Kasa.
Tasuki is one of those little hole in the wall joints that you may not have heard of, or miss it as you drive by on Folsom. But lately it has been touted as Boulder’s best-kept sushi secret, and it’s easy to see (or taste) why: It has gotten the reputation of the best sushi restaurants in Boulder, rivaling even old mainstay Zanmai in its reputation for excellence. Why?
Remember Sushi Tora? That tiny sushi place tucked away just north of the Trident, whose reputation for incredible sushi was like an arch-nemesis to the years of Zanmai’s holding the title of best sushi? Yeah? Well the chef (and a few others) from Sushi Tora are now at the helm of Tasuki. So that makes a heck of a lot of sense, if you think about it–and I might have to go take a walk down there and see what all the quiet fuss is about.
I don’t have a recommendation, as this is the only place out of the five I haven’t gotten the chance to sample yet. But hey–if it’s the Tora crew, I have high expectations.
Any pescophiles out there have any honorable mentions I forget to include? Let us know, and tell us what the best thing is to order on their menu! I’m always looking for excellent sushi.